Isabel Toledo, designer of Michelle Obama’s 2009 inaugural dress, dies at 59

The fashion industry has suffered the loss of one of its top designers in a death that also reverberated among some in the political world, given her ties to former first lady Michelle Obama.

Isabel Toledo, an artist who famously designed the dress worn by Obama at her husband’s 2009 inauguration, passed away at the age of 59 following a battle with breast cancer.

Cuban immigrant rose to the top of the fashion industry

Vogue magazine reported that Toledo was born in Cuba in 1961 and immigrated to America as a teenager to live with her family in the city of West New York in New Jersey.

The future fashion designer met her future husband — Ruben Toledo — while in high school, and the pair eventually married and became collaborating partners in the fashion world.

The duo worked together for four decades and received an array of awards for their designs. Their work has also been featured in numerous museum exhibitions.

Toledo learned to sew in Cuba and honed her craft while attending — but never graduating from — the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design. She began to introduce her own collections of designs in 1985 and quickly made a name for herself in the fashion industry.

Indeed, Toledo’s designs were the sort of thing seen at red carpet events and were showcased by famous actresses like Debra Messing and Demi Moore, among others.

Dressing the first lady

Toledo worked briefly as the creative director for fashion company Anne Klein, but was best known as an independent spirit who was dubbed by colleagues as a “designer’s designer.”

It was the outfit that Toledo created for Michelle Obama, however, that truly cemented her fame in the fashion industry, a dress described by Vogue as a “discreetly chic lemongrass yellow wool lace shift dress with matching overcoat.”

Toledo was reportedly inspired to create the dress after seeing a small swatch of yellow-hued material in her studio.

After sharing the idea with her husband, who sketched out the design to her standards, the historically significant ensemble was custom fabricated and presented to the incoming first lady.

Isabel Toledo will no doubt be mourned by her friends in the fashion industry and greatly missed by the famous figures she helped dress, including Michelle Obama.

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